Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

that means lives much cheaper than those who have not so good an estate as himself. He would be a good neighbour, if he did not destroy so many partridges. In short, he is a very sensible man; shoots flying; and has been several times foreman of the Petty Jury.

The other that rides along with him is Tom Touchy, a fellow famous for taking the law of every body. There is not one in the town where he lives that he has not sued at a quarter-sessions. The rogue had once the impudence to go to law with the widow. His head is full of costs, damages, and ejectments. He plagued a couple of honest gentlemen so long for a trespass in breaking one of his hedges, till he was forced to sell the ground it enclosed to defray the charges of the prosecution ; his father left him fourscore pounds a-year, but he has cast and been cast so often, that he is not now worth thirty. I suppose he is going upon the old business of the Willow Tree."

As Sir Roger was giving me this account of Tom Touchy, Will Wimble and his two companions stopped short till we came up to them. After having paid their respects to Sir Roger, Will told him that Mr Touchy and he must appeal to him upon a dispute that arose between them. Will, it seems, had been giving his fellow-traveller an account of his angling one day in such a hole; when Tom Touchy, instead of hearing out his story, told him that Mr Such-a-one, if he pleased, miglit take the law of him for fishing in that part of the river. My friend Sir Roger heard them both, upon a round trot; and after having paused some time, told them, with the air of a man who would not give his judgment rashly, that “much might be said on both sides.” They were neither of them dissatisfied with the knight's determination, because neither of them found himself in the wrong by it. Upon which we made the best of our way to the assizes.

The court was met before Sir Roger came: but notwithstanding all the justices had taken their places upon the bench, they made room for the old knight at the head of them; who, for his reputation in the coun. try, took occasion to whisper in the judge's ear, that “ he was glad his lordship had met with so much good weather in his circuit.” I was listening to the proceedings of the court with much attention, and infinitely pleased with that great appearance and solemnity which so properly accompanies such a public administration of our laws, when, after about an hour's sitting, I observed, to my great surprise, in the midst of a trial, that my friend Sir Roger was getting up to speak. I was in some pain for him, until I found he had acquitted himself of two or three sentences, with a look of much business and great intrepidity.

Upon his first rising, the court was hushed, and a general whisper ran among the country people that Sir Roger was up: The speech he made was so little to the purpose, that I shall not trouble my readers with an account of it; and I believe was not so much designed by the knight himself to inform the court, as to give him a figure in my eye, and keep up his credit in the country:

I was highly delighted when the court rose, to see the gentlemen of the county gathering about my old friend, and striving who should compliment him most; at the same time that the ordinary people gazed upon him at a distance, not a little admiring his courage, that was not afraid to speak to the judge.

In our return home we met with a very odd accident, which I cannot forbear relating, because it shows how desirous all who know Sir Roger are of giving him marks of their esteem. When we were arrived upon the verge of his estate, we stopped at a little inn to rest ourselves and our horses. The man of the house had it seems been formerly a servant in the knight's family; and to do honour to his old master, had some time since, unknown to Sir Roger, put him up in a sign-post before the door; so that the knight's head had hung out upon the road about a week before he himself knew any thing of the matter. As soon as Sir Roger was acquainted with it, finding that his servant's indiscretion proceeded wholly from affection and good-will, he only

told him that he had made him too high a compliment; and when the fellow seemed to think that could hardly be, added, with a more decisive look, that it was too great an honour for any man under a duke; but told him, at the same time, that it might be altered with a very few touches, and that he himself would be at the charge of it. Accordingly, they got a painter by the knight's directions to add a pair of whiskers to the face, and, by a little aggravation of the features, to change it into the Saracen's head. I should not have known this story had not the innkeeper, upon Sir Roger's alighting, told him, in my hearing, that his honour's head was brought back last night with the alterations that he had ordered to be made in it. Upon this my friend, with his usual cheerfulness, related the particulars above mentioned, and ordered the head to be brought into the

I could not forbear discovering greater expressions of mirth than ordinary upon the appearance of this monstrous face, under which, notwithstanding it was made to frown and stare in a most extraordinary manner, I could still discover a distant resemblance of my old friend. Sir Roger, upon seeing me laugh, desired me to tell him truly if I thought it possible for people to know him in that disguise. I at first kept my usual silence; but upon the knight's conjuring me to tell him whether it was not still more like himself than a Saracen, I composed my countenance in the best manner I could, and replied that “much might be said on both sides."

These several adventures, with the knight's behaviour in them, gave me as pleasant a day as ever I met with in any of my travels.

room.

SIR ROGER DE COVERLEY AND THE GIPSIES. As I was yesterday riding out in the field with my friend Sir Roger, we saw at a little distance from us a troop of gipsies. Upon the first discovery of them, my friend was in some doubt whether he should not exert the justice of the peace upon such a band of lawless vagrairts ; but not having his clerk with him, who is a necessary counsellor on these occasions, and fearing that his poultry might fare the worse for it, he let the thought drop; but, at the same time, gave me a particular account of the mischiefs they do in the country, in stealing people's goods, and spoiling their servants. “If a stray piece of linen hangs upon a hedge,” says Sir Roger," they are sure to have it ; if a hog loses his way in the fields, it is ten to one but he becomes their prey; our geese cannot live in peace for them; if a man prosecutes them with severity, his henroost is sure to pay for it. They generally straggle into these parts about this time of the year, and set the heads of our servant maids so agog for husbands, that we do not expect to have any business done as it should be, whilst they are in the country. I have an honest dairy-maid who crosses their hands with a piece of silver every summer, and never fails being promised the handsomest young fellow in the parish for her pains. Your friend the butler has been fool enough to be seduced by them; and though he is sure to lose a knife, a fork, or a spoon, every time his fortune is told him, generally shuts himself up in the pantry with an old gipsy for above half an hour once in a twelvemonth. Sweethearts are the things they live upon, which they bestow very plentifully upon all those that apply themselves to them. You see now and then some handsome young jades among them; the sluts have very often white teeth and black eyes.”

Sir Roger observing that I listened with great attention to his account of a people who were so entirely new to me, told me, that if I would, they should tell us our fortunes. As I was very well pleased with the knight's proposal, we rode up and communicated our hands to them. A Cassandra of the crew, after having examined my lines very diligently, told me some particulars which I do not think proper to relate. My friend Sir Roger alighted from his horse, and exposing his palm to two or three that stood by him, they crumpled it into all shapes, and diligently scanned every wrinkle that could be made in it, when one of them, who was older and more sunburnt than the rest, told him, that he had a widow in his line of life. Upon which the knight cried, “Go, go, you are an idle baggage;" and at the same time smiled upon me. The gipsy, finding he was not displeased in his heart, told him, after a further inquiry into his hand, that his true love was constant, and that she should dream of him to-night. My old friend cried “Psha !" and bade her go on. The gipsy told him that he was a bachelor, but would not be so long; and that he was dearer to somebody than he thought. The knight still repeated, she was an idle baggage, and bade her go on. “Ah, master," says the gipsy, “ that roguish leer of yours makes a pretty woman's heart ache; you have not that simper about the mouth for nothing." The uncouth gibberish with which all this was uttered, like the darkness of an oracle, made us the more attentive to it. To be short, the knight left the money with her that he had crossed her hand with, and got up again on his horse.

As we were riding away, Sir Roger told me that he knew several sensible people who believed these gipsies now and then foretold very strange things ; and for half an hour together appeared more jocund than ordinary. In the height of his good humour, meeting a common beggar upon the road, who was no conjuror, as he went to relieve him, he found his pocket was picked—that being a kind of palmistry at which this race of vermin are very dexterous.

I might here entertain my readers with historical remarks on this idle profligate people, who infest all the countries of Europe, and live in the midst of governments in a kind of commonwealth by themselves. But

« AnteriorContinuar »